Digital drive helps ease the caseload for Legal Aid Queensland

A drive towards digitisation is well underway at Legal Aid Queensland, the Statutory Authority which is in fact the State’s largest legal practice with over 450 full time employees. It plays a vital role in providing legal assistance to financially disadvantaged Queenslanders.

An EzeScan scanning/capture solution fully integrated with HPE Records Manager 8.1 now supports the Authority’s 3 Brisbane CBD and 13 regional offices, from Cairns to Southport and Mt Isa in the west of the state.

In July 2016 alone Legal Aid Queensland reported assisting 6,516 adults in proceedings in the Queensland Magistrate Court, representing 350 children in the Childrens Court, and approving aid for lawyers to defend 1,673 people charged with criminal offences.

The provision of legal advice and representation activities remains, by necessity, document intensive.  The scanning solution has dealt with many of the headaches that arise from the paper-based records.

In addition, finalised matters are archived and stored off-site which causes the typical frustration when staff are trying to track down documents and the paperwork has been filed away.

The cost and space requirements to store these huge volumes of paper, plus the potential to retrieve documents more efficiently, caused Legal Aid Queensland to look into imaging in 2010 while introducing an eDRMS which went live in 2012.

The majority of digitisation activity occurs in the Herschel Street, Brisbane office where the Recordkeeping Services team is based.  Staff in regional offices are also able to scan hard copy source records using local MFDs configured with dedicated ‘job buttons’ which either partially or fully automate the digitisation process on a ‘document type’ basis.  Both administrative and core business processes are being improved through digitisation which is used to automatically capture selected emails and invoices, reduce manual data entry and automatically create registers.

EzeScan is presently capturing over 20,000 records a month, including around 1,000 client applications and 10,000 emails.

This is accomplished by two dedicated scanning stations running EzeScan Scan Licences in conjunction with two Kodak i4200+ document scanners at the Brisbane office in addition to three concurrently licensed EzeScan Indexing workstations.

There are two EzeScan Servers. The first processes email capture jobs from Exchange mailboxes, incoming faxes and dedicated MFD jobs; while the second performs background PDF conversion and upload for manually indexed documents.

EzeScan Authority Server manages all the EzeScan Licences including concurrent licence distribution.  It also provides centralised EzeScan configuration management.

The high volume of emails generated by Legal Aid Queensland’s Call Centre are cc’d to dedicated internal mailboxes.  EzeScan SERVER polls the dedicated mailboxes and automatically uploads the email to client files negating the need for Call Centre operators having to capture these manually.

Incoming invoices are captured via EzeScan from a dedicated Accounts Payable mailbox and are then routed through the organisation for approval and payment.  Wet signatures are no longer required for approving invoices for payment as HPE RM’s action/procedure functions are considered sufficient (in conjunction with record notes which are automatically date and time stamped with the user’s details) and any additional information.

Invoices for action are assigned to positions, and can only be completed by the nominated person or position holder, and all action taken on a document can be verified in RM’s document audit trail which is sufficient for the Authority’s internal audit purposes.

EzeScan reduces manual data entry by accessing much of the information already captured in HPE RM and other integrated systems. By entering a single file reference number EzeScan is able to automatically retrieve, names, dates of birth, grant and case file managers, as well as other additional information. It is also able to apply additional custom access restrictions for sensitive clients, in addition to standard access control measures.

Manual registers have been replaced with electronic ones by scanning items such as cheques and registered mail.

In addition to delivering efficiency, the digital transformation at Legal Aid Queensland has assisted with overall governance, as sensitive legal information can be secured more confidently, than is easily possible with paper documents in an open plan office environment.

Legal Aid Queensland is currently working towards certification for the early destruction of hard copy/source records while ensuring regulatory compliance for documents that may be required to be produced in Court.

Future projects LAQ may consider include deployment of EzeScan’s Remote Indexing WebApp designed to provide intelligent decentralised indexing for documents captured at MFDs.  This will provide self-registration capabilities to all staff from any location ensuring scanned documents are automatically named and filed correctly into HPE RM.